Friday 13 July 2018

Saxum The Life of Alvaro del Portillo - John F. Coverdale

Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo
John F. Coverdale
Scepter Publishing
ISBN 9781594172144


This was the second book on Blessed Alvero del Portillo that I have read in the last few weeks. The other one was a short introduction and overview of the man, his life and his work. This one goes into much greater depth. Reading this book, you cannot but grow in appreciation of this man, who is now beatified and will likely be canonized in our lifetime. There are not many books about Don Alvaro in English, and even fewer of his own works are available in English. But this book is a great addition to information about this saintly man that is available to English readers. Coverdale in his note on sources states that the most important sources for this book are four Spanish biographies and extensive interviews with the now deceased Bishop Javier Echeverría. He also did extensive research in the Opus Dei Prelature archives. In reading this book and 40 Years with a Saint: Blessed Alvaro del Portillo on St. Josemara Escriva by Cesare Cavalleri, It seems impossible to look at the life of Don Alvaro outside of his friendship with saint Josemaira Escriva and his lifelong role in Opus Dei. In fact, in this volume after a brief summary of his early life and overview of the times the fourth chapter begins looking at his early involvement with the work. The chapters in this book are as follows:

Note on Sources
1. Finding the Meaning of His Life
2. Early Life
3. Political and Social Background
4. First Steps in Opus Dei
5. Fugitive and Prisoner
6. Refugee
7. Engineering Officer
8. Saxum
9. A Priest of Opus Dei
10. Winning Vatican Approval
11. Building Opus Dei in and from Rome
12. The Second Vatican Council
13. The Post-Conciliar Decade
14. Succeeding the Founder
15. A Man of Prayer and a Father
16. Serving Opus Dei and the Church
17. Reaching Out to Crowds
18. Friend of Gardeners and Popes
19. Finding a Safe Harbor
20. Beatification of the Founder
21. Final Days

Over half of the book focuses on his life with Escriva, and then the final third on his life after Escriva passed away and he became the prelate of Opus Dei. But as you read this book you will realize that his work, his service was so much more than just that single focus. He was involved greatly with preparation for and contributing to documents from Vatican II. He had close relationships with pope, many bishops and cardinals. But he was also dedicated to the members of the work. Some of the stories in this book come from ordinary laymen who had personal encounters with Alvaro that had deep and lasting impact on their lives. And reading this book you will encounter the man in a similar personal way.

His service will amaze you. His dedication and focus will inspire you. And his devotion to Our Lady will challenge you. But it was his personal touch that encouraged so many in their life and faith.

"Don Alvaro's love for the Church and his theological appreciation for the role of bishops led him to pray for them and try to support them. A few months before the assassination of Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, del Portillo wrote to him: "I assure you that I will pray for you daily at holy Mass, for you and for all the work of souls you carry out." When visiting cathedrals and shrines of Our Lady, he often sent postcards to friends in the hierarchy assuring them of his prayer and affection. Many recipients commented on how much good this simple token of friendship had done them."
He left an impact on all who met him. And most considered his as a friend. He was sought out for advice and guidance by people from all walks of life.  Don Alvaro's simple and intense piety is an inspiration. This was one of the simple prayers he learned in childhood that he prayed all his life:

Sweet Mother, never go away.
Keep watch over me both night and day. 
Accompany me wherever I go,
And never, ever leave me alone.
Since you protect me so carefully
As my true mother,
Win for me the blessing of God
the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

His devotion to Our Lady is an inspiration to me and to my children. Saxum means rock in Latin, and Don Alvaro was a rock for everyone he encountered. And through this book he can continue to be a rock for us and our faith.  This book does a wonderful job of providing us with a greater glimpse into the life of Don Alvaro. It is very well written and extensively researched. I believe that anyone who read this book will be challenged in their faith, but also will be greatly inspired and encouraged!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Scepter Publishing.

Books by John F. Coverdale:
Putting Down Roots: Father Joseph Muzquiz and the Growth of Opus Dei, 1912-1983
Uncommon Faith: The Early Years of Opus Dei, 1928-1943
Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo
On the Vocation to Opus Dei
Books about Alvaro del Portillo:
Alvaro Del Portillo The Power of Humility - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo - John F. Coverdale
40 Years with a Saint: Blessed Alvaro del Portillo on St. Josemara Escriva - Cesare Cavalleri

Books by Alvaro del Portillo:
Like Salt and Like Light: Anthology of texts compiled by Jose Antonio Loarte
Faithful And Laity In The Church; The Bases Of Their Legal Status
Journey with Jesus

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